Hedging its bets as politicians debate the wisdom and practicality of closing down all of the nation's nuclear power plants in the wake of 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster, Japan is expanding its ability to power itself with solar.

The country has begun construction of a new solar project in Kitakyushu-shi, with U.S. solar power contractor and thin film specialist First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) doing the work. First Solar hopes to have a 1.4-megawatt solar power plant up and running by the first quarter of next year.

The plant will generate power from First Solar's cadmium telluride thin-film PV modules, rather than the polysilicon-based panels more usual in solar power plants. Although First Solar actually buys the glass it uses to face its solar panels from Japan -- from Nippon Sheet Glass to be precise -- this will be First Solar's first project in the country. First Solar will own 100% of the project, and will use local contractors Obayashi and Yaskawa Electric to build the plant.

Said First Solar Chief Commercial Officer Joseph Kishkill, "We are honored to begin our long-term strategic investment in Japan with the Kitakyushu-shi project."